« AnteriorContinuar »
of the hypothesis, that for every fact of consciousness, whether in the domain of sense, of thought, or of emotion, a certain definite molecular condition is set up in the brain ; that this relation of physics to consciousness is invariable : so that, given the state of the brain, the corresponding thought or feeling might be inferred; or given the thought or feeling, the corresponding state of the brain might be inferred.”
After a concession such as this, what can Professor Huxley, or the most absolute materialist, desire more? But the very next words are a demonstration of its utter worthlessness :
“But how inferred? It is at bottom not a case of logical inference at all, but of empirical association. You may reply that many of the inferences of science are of this character; the inference, for example, that an electric current of a given direction will deflect a magnetic needle in a definite way ; but the cases differ in this, that the passage from the current to the needle, if not demonstrable, is thinkable, and that we entertain no doubt as to the final mechanical solution of the problem ; but the passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought, and a definite molecular action in the brain, occur simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from the one phenomenon to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why. Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated so as to enable us to see and feel the molecules of the brain; were we capable of following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric discharges, if such there be ; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be as far as ever from the solution of the problem, 'How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness ?' The chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable.”
As an answer to Huxleyan materialism, this statement of fact is complete ; and, coming from Prof. Tyndall, it is also unimpeachable. We by no means think it necessary to make all the concessions which, in the passage just quoted, that distinguished physicist has made towards the creation of the materialistic hypothesis ; but then the having made them possesses at least this important advantage,-it secures an en. trenched position which precludes the possibility of resistance when we proceed to the demolition of that hypothesis. When we are told that the “nettle arises as the man does, in a mass of nucleated protoplasm,”-that protoplasm is not merely "the formal basis of all life,” but also that it is itself “ the matter of life,” “the source of all vital phenomena," “ the clay of the potter, which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains clay, separated by artifice, and not by nature, from the commonest
brick or sun-dried clod," we answer, on the authority of Professor Tyndall, that these assertions are unsupported by evidence. That we are fearfully and wonderfully made,” is a truth understood now not more fully than in the days of King David; but then, to use the words of the Professor, “ associated with this wonderful mechanism of the animal body we have phenomena no less certain than those of physics, but between which and the mechanism we discern no necessary connexion.” So that, even if we were to grant-what is, after all, however, a mere hypothesis—"that a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one phenomenon to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why." Let the consciousness of love, for example, be associated with a right-handed spiral motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with a left-handed spiral motion; we should then know, when we love, that the motion is in one direction, and when we hate that the motion is in the other; but the 'Why' would still remain unanswered. So that, even if again we were to grant that growth of the body is mechanical, and that thought, as exercised by us, has its correlative in the physics of the brain, we should still be able, on the same high authority, to maintain that, “as the human mind is at present constituted,” the materialist cannot pass beyond this point. “I do not think (says Professor Tyndall) he is entitled to say that his molecular groupings and his molecular motions explain everything. In reality, THEY EXPLAIN NOTHING. The most he can affirm is the association of two classes of phenomena, of whose real bond of union he is in absolute ignorance.”
From the firm security of the stand-point thus attained, it is instructive to observe not merely the mutability, but also the mutual hostility of those doctrines of materialism by which, from age to age, it has been attempted, with a persistency of effort-and of failure-like those of Sisyphus himself, to expound the mysteries of existence without recourse to the verities of Revelation.
That Locke was an Immaterialist, is abundantly evinced by many passages in his writings.* But notwithstanding his explicit opposition to materialism as a matter of fact, he was
* For example :-“ By putting to gether the ideas of thinking, per ceiving, liberty and power of moving themselves and other things, we have as clear a perception and notion of
Vol. 68.-No. 377.
immaterial substances as we have of
content to remain neutral when the question became one of mere possibility. To say that the power of thinking could not possibly be added to matter, appeared to his reverent mind tantamount to a presumptuous limitation of Divine Omnipotence itself.* Hence Mr. Carlyle, denouncing “Hartley's and Darwin's, and all the possible forms of Materialism,-the grand idolatry, as we may rightly call it, by which at all times the true worship, that of the invisible, has been polluted and withstood,” characteristically adds, “ Locke himself, a clear, humbleminded, patient, reverent, nay religious man, had paved the way for banishing religion from the world. Mind, by being modelled in men's imaginations into a shape, a visibility, and reasoned of as if it had been some composite, divisible, and reupitable substance,-some finer chemical salt, or curious piece of logical joinery,—began to lose its immaterial, mysterious, divine, though invisible character: it was tacitly figured as something that might, were our organs fine enough, be seen. Yet who had ever seen it? Who could ever see it? Thus, by degrees, it passed into a doubt, a relation, some faint possibility, and, at last, into a highly probable nonentity. Following Locke's footsteps, the French had discovered that 'as the stomach secretes chyle, so does the brain secrete thought.'”+
To the same purpose, Bonnet of Geneva, while affirming the immateriality of the thinking principle, and expressly assigning his reasons against materialism, I appears to have thought, with Locke, that the supposition of the possibility of matter being endowed with thought, was one which left untouched the true belief in God, as well as the immortality of the soul. Hence his dictum (subsequently adopted by Priestley as the motto of his “ Disquisitions”) that "if any one should ever demonstrate the soul to be material, far from being alarmed at this, we should only admire the power which could give to matter the power of thinking."
Priestley himself, after fluctuating for a while between the two opposite extremes of spiritualizing matter, and materializing mind, ß adopted a scheme which resembles the theory of D’Holbach and Comte in its affirmation of one uniform substance (unisubstancisme), and its rejection of dualism. On the other hand, it differs from that theory in the recognition of a personal God, a resurrection of the body, and a future state of retribution.
* "I see no contradiction in it that the first eternal thinking Being should, if he pleased, give to certain systems of created senseless matter, put to gether as He sees fit, some degrees of sense, perception, and thought."
-(Letter to Bishop of Worcester: Works, iv. 31.)
+ Carlyle's Essays, vol. iv. pp. 77, 214.
I C. Bonnet, Palingénesie Philoso. phique, vol. i. pp. 7, 47, 52.
Priestley: “Discoveries relating to Vision, Light, and Colours ;" “ Disquisitions relating to Matter and Spirit,” &c, See also Buchanan's Faith in God, and Modern Atheism : vol. ii. sect, iii. ch. 4.
Dr. Good* agreed with Priestley in representing the soul as material; but differed from him in maintaining the possible existence of the soul in a separate state. The soul itself he described as “the very texture of that separate state of existence which the infallible page of Revelation clearly indicates will be ours."
Closely akin to this is the still more modern theory of Davis, the “Poughkeepsie Seer," and that of the author of “The Parpose of Existence,” according to whom "spirit is evolved out of matter, and outlives the body in which it is educated.”
All these varieties, however, are marked by the possession of a common element,-an element which stamps them as being radically one and the same; they all deny the existence of any generic difference between Matter and Mind. But there is still another variety, which transcends all the rest the Huxleyan. For its prototype we must turn to the “Systême de la Nature" of a former age. “The universe,” says Baron D’Holbach, “that vast assemblage of everything that exists, exhibits nowhere anything else than matter and motion.” “All natural phenomena,” says M. Comte, “are the necessary results either of the laws of extension or of the laws of motion.”+ “ Intelligence," says M. Crousse, “is a property or effect of matter."' | And similarly, almost in the very words used by Professor Huxley in reiterating their doctrine, Atkinson and Martineau tell us that “instinct, passion, thought, are effects of organized substances.”' $ And again, “ Man has his place in Natural History; his nature does not essentially differ from that of the lower animals.” So that the Huxleyan doctrine has not even the merit of novelty when it announces || that “man is, in substance and structure, one with the brutes ;" "and that even the highest faculties of feeling and of intellect begin to germinate in lower forms of life.” This grossest form, then, or, to use Dr. Johnson's words, this “brutal doctrine” of materialism, is not new;- but is it true?
It needs but a moment's reflection in order to perceive that it is, and must be, the very reverse of true. Conscience, remorse, ambition, self-cultivation, æsthetical sensibilities, religious faculties, broadly and plainly distinguish man from the
* In his “Life of Lacretius," pre. fixed to his poetical version of "The Nature of Things." + “Cours," vol. i. p. 141.
“Des Principes, p. 86.
$ “Letters on the Laws of Man's Nature and Development." By H. G. Atkinson and Harriet Martineau.
H In Professor Huxley's “Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature."
highest of the inferior animals. Their existence either involves some physiological peculiarity, or it does not. If it does, then the Huxleyan theory is overthrown. If it does not, then the cause of the distinction must be looked for in an immaterial element which physiology cannot grasp. The fact is beyond dispute; and to him who seeks not to be wise above what is written, the reason of it is plain :-“There is a spirit in man; and the breath of the Almighty giveth him understanding.” The very similarity of the material formation furnishes conclusive evidence of the immaterial. And thus Bossuet :-" The principle employed by the patrons of animals ought to make them draw a conclusion the opposite to what they do draw, For if they maintain, on the one side, that the organs are common to man and beast, then, since it is clear that men understand objects whereof one cannot imagine that animals have the least glimmering, one must necessarily conclude that the understanding of these objects is not attached to these organs, but depends upon another principle.”*
And this conclusion, be it observed, is established, too, on an authority no less weighty than that of Professor Tyndall himself, when, on a special occasion, and before a scientific audience, he voluntarily undertook “to point out the region which men of science claim as their own, and where it is mere waste of time to oppose their advance, and also to define, if possible, the bourne between this and that other region to which the questionings and yearnings of the scientific intellect are directed in vain.” In the prosecution of this task, he said, “Phosphorus is known to enter into the composition of the human brain; and a courageous writer has explained, in his trenchant German, 'Ohne Phosphor kein Gedanke.' That may or may not be the case; but even if we knew it to be the case, the knowledge would not lighten our darkness. On both sides of the zone here assigned to the Materialist, he is equally helpless.” To sum up all in one brief word—“ The problem of the connexion of body and soul is as insoluble in its modern form as it was in the pre-scientific ages.”+
“He that believeth shall not make haste.” This is the one truth which, more than any other, has been forced upon us in every stage of this review. The confidence of a Christian is not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Surround him with perplexities : he can afford to wait. He knows in whom he has believed. And it cannot escape his notice as a “ Christian observer,” that, wherever science is
* De la Connoissance de Dieu et de soi-même, c. 5, n. xii.
+ Prof. Tyndall's Address at the Norwich Meeting of the British Association, August, 1868.